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Characteristics of peer models at a summer camp for children with autism

Jonna L. Bobzien (Department of Communication Disorders and Special Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA)
Sharon Judge (Department of Communication Disorders and Special Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA)

Journal for Multicultural Education

ISSN: 2053-535X

Article publication date: 4 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to examine the openness, growth and loneliness of typical peers volunteering at a summer day camp for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Design/methodology/approach

In this study, the authors obtained descriptive data on the attitudes and behaviors of 38 adolescent peer buddies without disabilities volunteering at a summer camp for children with ASD using four short surveys. Surveys were given prior to the start of camp in an attempt to capture the attitudes and perspectives of the participants before they became more familiar with the characteristics of the children with ASD who were attending the camp. The authors examined if there were group differences on attitudes and behaviors based on age, gender and first-time volunteer versus returning volunteer peer buddy.

Findings

The analysis showed that all volunteer peer buddies appeared open to interacting, playing and developing friendships with the child represented in the vignette with ASD. Participants indicated increased feelings of independence, ample ability to establish friendships and a desire for adventurous and explorative activities. Significant differences were found based on age and gender on openness to a peer with ASD characteristics.

Originality/value

The results of this study have the potential to serve a broader purpose by demonstrating the types of children and adolescents that may be optimal choices to serve as peer mentors or buddies for peers with ASD attending summer camps or other community-based programs, as well as in classroom settings.

Keywords

Citation

L. Bobzien, J. and Judge, S. (2014), "Characteristics of peer models at a summer camp for children with autism", Journal for Multicultural Education, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp. 237-248. https://doi.org/10.1108/JME-04-2014-0017

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited